If you’ve been around the shop lately, you’ve probably heard us mention that we’re going to build Johnathan Wards’ MTM PCB Mill. We’ve been making good progress.
We don’t have a shopbot, and our first attempt at getting some parts made on a neighbor’s CNC didn’t work out, so we lasercut our assembly out of 6mm plywood and did a bit of glue work to get a nice solid frame. This not only looks nice, it gives us a lot more control over how we can build the thing. Turns out the first failure was a good thing because other than the initial body, our mill isn’t going to be very much like the original at all. Which is of course the point of Open Source Hardware. It’s not really a blueprint, it’s a starting point.
We’ve been really interested in is seeing if we could build the mill without going through the MTM BOM. Sure, it’s reasonable pricing if you’re looking at CNC mills, but buying 108 bucks worth of Frelon lined linear bearings when we already have a bunch of tools that make tools seems silly. We can make linear bearings. We have a makerbot and a spool of HDPE (slippery plastic for the uninitiated). Add to that we have printer rods in the Junk Box, extra threaded rod from our second makerbot build, stepper motors, drivers, arduinos, DC motors, and pounds upon pounds of screws and nuts. We started looking around the shop and figured out we can make this thing with stuff we have laying around. Once it’s built, we can use it to make itself better too!
Tonight was all about hacksaws and printing with HDPE for the first time. It was a bit of effort, but we got all our rods cut and built an X axis that slides pretty smooth. We also got some ideas for the next round of cuts, which we should be able to fit in the scrap from the first round. We’ll keep you updated on our progress, and publish our plans so you can make what we do, and change what you want.
Once it’s done, we’re going to put this robot to work. Come in and make surface mount PCBs in a little under an hour.
If you’re wondering how to make boards (we sure are), we’ve started up a wiki page on the toolchain that the Center for Bits and Atoms uses. It’s pretty cool stuff.